Derby win secures home quarter-final
Somerset secured the local bragging rights and more importantly a home quarter-final after winning a nail-biting Vitality Blast clash against Gloucestershire at the Cooper Associates County Ground.
The home side went into the match sitting at the top of the table and knowing that a win over their local rivals would see them claim a home quarter-final, but Gloucestershire took them down to the wire, and the jubilant reaction of the Somerset players and supporters showed just how close the visitors came to ruining the party.
In front of a sold out crowd in glorious sunshine, Will Smeed once again proved to be the scourge of Somerset’s nearest neighbours.
The visitors did well to recover from nine for three after losing the toss to post 186 for eight, Grant Roelofsen top-scoring with 52, while Jack Taylor (41 not out) and Graeme van Buuren (36) made significant contributions. Matt Henry was the pick of the Somerset attack with two for 28.
Somerset’s reply of 187 for six in 19.3 overs was dominated by opener Smeed, who followed up his 94 in the corresponding South Group game at Bristol, by blitzing 78 off 42 balls, with five sixes and seven fours.
Ben Green (37) and Kasey Aldridge (32 not out) helped clinch victory with a sixth-wicket stand of 48 as the group leaders made it ten wins from 12 games, ensuring a top two finish.
After being put in, the visitors knew it would be important to make a strong start, but they did the exact the opposite, losing Miles Hammond and Ben Charlesworth in Henry’s first over, the second of the game.
When Craig Overton had Ben Wells caught behind off a lifter, Gloucestershire were in disarray. James Bracey hit a quick 17, including a scooped six off Overton, but he somehow contrived to sky a catch to point off what would have been a leg-side wide from Josh Davey and at the end of the six-over power play, the scoreboard read 44 for four.
Roelofson and van Buuren then produced a stand of 71 in 6.2 overs to revive Gloucestershire fortunes. The 11th over, bowled by the leading wicket-taker in the competition, Green, went for 20 as Roelofsen struck sixes over mid-wicket and square leg.
Off-spinner Shoaib Bashir, making his home debut for Somerset, bowled van Buuren, who had hit two sixes and four fours, with a ball that turned, but Roelofsen went to fifty off 36 balls before being run out by Tom Abell’s direct hit at the bowler’s end attempting a single to extra cover.
David Payne was also run out, at the non-striker’s end, by some sharp fielding off his own bowling by Green, but Taylor began to enjoy himself, clearing the ropes off Green before being caught off a Henry no-ball.
The reprieve saw Taylor hit a second six, off Henry, and Josh Shaw also managed a maximum off Davey, who responded by bowling the last over of the innings for just three runs.
Shaw began the Somerset innings with a wicket-maiden, having Tom Banton caught behind off his second ball. However, Smeed retaliated with a six and a four off the second over, sent down by Payne.
Smeed then hit Ajeet Dale over mid-wicket onto the top floor of the flats as 17 came off the third over. Payne hit back in the next, Tom Kohler-Cadmore skying to mid-on where Gloucestershire skipper Hammond pouched a comfortable catch.
Abell was bowled by a full ball from Zaman Akhter and Somerset reached the end of the power play of 53 for three, Smeed having effortless lifted another six over mid-wicket off Shaw.
Akhter then yorked Sean Dickson before Smeed went to a 26-ball fifty. His brilliant exhibition ended in the 13th over when he miscued a pull shot off Dale to van Buuren at long-on.
Green smacked a straight six off van Buuren’s left-arm spin as the 14th over went for 16, then cleared the extra cover boundary rope off Shaw. Aldridge provided excellent support and 27 were needed off the last three overs.
Green fell to a catch at short fine leg off Dale, but Overton’s six over mid-wicket and straight four off Akhter left Somerset requiring eight off the last over, bowled by van Buuren.
An Aldridge four over extra cover was sandwiched between two twos and sealed the deal to the delight of home supporters.